Savor the Swap: 7 Stellar Substitutes for Fennel Seeds

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Fennel seed is a key ingredient in many savory and sweet dishes. However, you may not always have it on hand when a recipe calls for it.

Fortunately, there are a variety of great alternatives that can mimic or complement fennel’s aromatic flavor. From spices to botanicals, this article will explore your best options to substitute for fennel seed when your supply has run out. Let’s check them out!


  • Star anise – Similar licorice flavor, great for soups and sauces
  • Anise seeds – Licorice-like taste, adjust amount used due to small size
  • Caraway seeds – Nutty with hints of anise, perfect for savory dishes
Substitutes for Fennel Seeds

Fennel Taste and Aroma

Fennel boasts a unique anise-like and sweet flavor with a slight licorice taste. Its seeds contribute a slightly bitter taste and an aromatic essence, making it a key ingredient in dishes like fennel sausage. It’s a flavor I love, especially in Italian and Asian food.

Substitutes for Fennel Seeds:

Here’s a breakdown of seven amazing swaps to help you find great alternatives to fennel seeds. Each of these is a spice except for the pollen and tarragon.

  1. Star Anise
    • Widespread flavor, particularly in Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.
    • Similar licorice flavor, suitable for sweet and savory dishes.
    • Best used in sauces, soups, stocks, and liquids.
  2. Anise Seeds
    • Commonly found in Middle Eastern, Italian, German, Indian, and Mexican foods.
    • Licorice-type flavor, ideal for sweets or savory dishes.
    • Smaller than fennel seeds; adjust the quantity accordingly.
  3. Caraway Seeds
    • Popular in Scandinavian and Northern African cuisines.
    • Nutty flavor with hints of anise, perfect for savory dishes.
    • Used in breads, sauerkraut, stews, and more.
  4. Dill Seeds
    • It has a similar taste to fennel seeds with mild differences.
    • Suitable for pickling recipes and savory dishes.
    • Complements egg and fish dishes.
  5. Fennel Pollen
    • Also known as “the spice of angels.”
    • Strong anise flavor for sweet and savory dishes.
    • Specialty items are found in specialty stores or online.
  6. French Tarragon
    • Subtle anise flavor, commonly used in French cooking.
    • It is ideal for sauces, salads, soups, and various dishes.
    • It can be challenging to find; consider growing it in your herb garden.
  7. Licorice Root
    • Pungent, slightly bitter yet sweet taste.
    • Strong anise flavor suitable for sweet and savory dishes.
    • Found in most Asian markets; best used in liquids.
SubstituteFlavor ProfileSuitable DishesUsage TipsAdditional Details
Star AniseLicorice, widespread flavorSweet and savory dishes, sauces, soups like PhoBest used in sauces, soups, stocks, and liquids.Star anise is a prominent spice in Chinese cuisine. It should be used sparingly due to its intense flavor. It’s often used in marinades and infusions for a subtle licorice note.
Anise SeedsLicorice-type, smaller than fennelSweets, savory dishes, bakingAdjust quantity due to smaller seed size.Anise seeds are commonly found in Italian biscotti and cookies. They are also a popular choice in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines, adding a distinct anise flavor to various dishes.
Caraway SeedsNutty with hints of aniseSavory dishes, breads, sauerkraut, stewsVersatile in various cuisines; adjust quantity based on taste preferences.Caraway seeds have a unique nutty flavor and are a key ingredient in traditional German sauerkraut. They pair well with rye bread and are used in European and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Dill SeedsSimilar to fennel with mild differencesPickling recipes, savory dishesComplements egg and fish dishes.Dill seeds are commonly used in pickling cucumbers and enhancing the flavor of fish dishes. They bring a slightly sweet and tangy note, making them a versatile addition to many recipes.
Fennel PollenStrong anise flavorSweet and savory dishes, seasoning meatsSpecialty item, may be challenging to find.Fennel pollen is considered a luxury spice, known for its intense anise flavor. It is often used as a finishing touch for dishes, providing a burst of aromatic and flavorful essence.
French TarragonSubtle anise flavorSauces, salads, soups, various dishesCan be challenging to find; consider growing in your herb garden.French tarragon is a delicate herb commonly used in French cuisine. It adds a subtle anise flavor to sauces and salads, making it an excellent choice for elevating the taste of various dishes.
Licorice RootPungent, slightly bitter yet sweetSweet and savory dishes, Chinese cookingBest used in sauces, soups, stocks, and liquids; consider potential blood pressure increase.Licorice root imparts a strong anise flavor and is commonly used in Chinese cuisine. It should be used sparingly, and individuals with high blood pressure should consume it cautiously.
Fennel Seed Substitutes Chart
fennel seeds on a spoon

Final Thoughts on Fennel Seed Substitutes:

Remember, there are numerous alternatives to fennel seeds, each offering its unique flavor profile. For convenience, consider using anise seeds or caraway seeds.

However, if you’re feeling adventurous, explore options like French tarragon or licorice root. Share this article with your friends to spread culinary knowledge.

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